Ina Fried

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ITC Initial Ruling: Motorola Infringes Single Microsoft Patent, but Not Six Others

Microsoft won a partial victory in its patent dispute with Motorola, as the International Trade Commission issued an initial ruling that certain Motorola products infringe on one of the software maker’s patents. However, the same administrative law judge found no infringement of six other patents that Microsoft had claimed infringed on its intellectual property.

“We are pleased with the ITC’s initial determination finding Motorola violated four claims of a Microsoft patent,” Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard said in a statement. “As Samsung, HTC, Acer and other companies have recognized, respecting others’ intellectual property through licensing is the right path forward.”

Tuesday’s ruling by an administrative law judge is one step in the process. The trade commission itself will now review the finding and issue a final ruling, at which time it will decide whether to ban the import of any Motorola products.

The ruling follows a separate decision on Monday by the commission that certain HTC phones infringe on an Apple patent. In that decision, a final ruling by the commission (though still subject to court appeal) ordered that HTC products using the infringing technology be banned for import, as of April. HTC has said it plans to drop the feature in dispute.

Both cases are among a growing docket of patent disputes involving much of the mobile industry. A key issue for the industry is whether Google’s freely available Android operating system infringes on patents held by Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and others.

Update: In an interview, Motorola General Counsel Scott Offer said the company is pleased with Tuesday’s ruling.

“We view it as a huge win for us,” Offer told AllThingsD. “They had, originally, nine patents in their first case. They are down to one patent, effectively.”

As to that one patent, Offer said that it relates to how mobile devices process meeting requests via email.

“We are reviewing our options on that,” he said.

Tuesday’s decision now goes before the full commission, which typically issues its ruling within two months, though that can be extended, as was the case with Apple and HTC.

For now, Offer said, Motorola wants to keep the focus on its products rather than the court battle.

“We feel we’ve got great products and we are focused on our product portfolio.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work